Wichita State's men's basketball team will play several teams this season and you might wonder where they came from.
Those are known as guarantee games, and they are usually against schools from low-profile conferences. They are often the final games to click into place when assembling a schedule. This season, WSU is paying guarantees to Chicago State, Nicholls State, Texas Southern and Alabama A&M. Those teams will come to Koch Arena, receive a check and, barring a major surprise, a loss.
Those games are part of the scheduling mix WSU searches for each season. WSU needs to play home games to make money. It tries to get the best guarantee opponents possible, meaning ones who don't end up 3-25 and hurt the strength of schedule too badly.
"Scheduling is really a balancing act of creating the strongest schedule we can, while developing a schedule to support our great fan base," athletic director Eric Sexton said. "We're a hard place to recruit teams, and I call it that, to come to. And they're all trying to put together a schedule in the same way."
Money is one of the recruiting tools, but it's not the only one WSU uses. Compatible dates or travel schedules can also help a deal. For example, a team that is playing at Kansas State or Oklahoma State might be willing to combo that with a game at WSU.
* WSU will pay Texas Southern $73,000, plus hotel rooms, for a Nov. 16 game.
* WSU will pay Chicago State $80,000, plus hotel rooms for the Dec. 1 game. The schools signed a two-game deal, with Chicago State returning to Wichita next season.
* Nicholls State will receive $80,000, plus 20 round-trip airline tickets and hotel rooms for a Dec. 10 game.
* On Dec. 13, Alabama A&M visits and will receive $70,000, plus hotel rooms.
Sexton said the process doesn't turn on magical confluences of events. Schools negotiate, both trying to get what they want. When the wants and needs and dates match, teams play.
"It's not really magic," he said. "Every game, whether it's a guarantee game, or a home and home, ends up being a negotiation."
WSU is in the last year of a three-season deal with UMKC, with two games at Koch Arena and one in Kansas City. This will be the seventh straight season for the teams to meet. Until Tulsa returned to the schedule, UMKC represented the closest thing to a regional rival. The Shockers won four of the previous six meetings.
"We will look for either renewing (the UMKC) series, or identifying another regional opponent in the same vein," Sexton said. "That's been a nice area home-and-home scheduling opportunity. If it works out for both of us, we're likely to continue this."
What's not known is how UMKC's change of home courts might affect the series. UMKC is moving its games from Municipal Auditorium (capacity 9,287) to Swinney Recreation Center (1,700) on campus. Games at Municipal can attract hundreds, if not 1,000 or more, WSU fans.
Growing up — Moore (Okla.) lefty pitcher Kyle Vail started high school as your typical teen. He liked baseball, but he didn't devote himself to practice.
"Coming into high school, I would jack around and didn't take things very seriously," Vail said.
After a few chats with his coach, Vail figured things out. Long toss became an important routine. Weights became important.
"I started taking practice seriously," he said. "I started doing things the way they were supposed to be done."
Now a senior, Vail's turnaround paid off. He orally committed to Wichita State recently and will make it official during the signing period that begins Wednesday.
Vail (6-foot-5, 185 pounds) said he got a lot of advice on choosing colleges. The best advice came from someone who told him to make sure he felt a connection.
"I truly believe I felt a connection at Wichita State," he said. "Everything I wanted in a school and a baseball team, they've got."
Good grades — WSU women's cross country runners Tonya Nero, Leah Thompson and Scarla Nero were named to the Missouri Valley Conference scholar-athlete team.
Tonya Nero, the Valley's individual champion, carries a 3.80 grade-point average in chemistry. Thompson, who finished ninth in the conference meet, has a 3.63 GPA in exercise science. Scarla Nero, who finished 13th, carries a 3.72 GPA in elementary education.